Dangers of common summer adventures should not be overlooked

As reported by CNN and other outlets earlier this summer, amusement parks are regularly the scene of tragic accidents and even deaths, with injuries greater than 1,000 annually for the past several years. While amusement parks, which are still relatively safe compared to the number of visitors they receive, may get more attention on safety issues, A. Vince Colella, a founding partner of   Moss & Colella PC, a Southfield-based law firm specializing in personal injury and civil rights, advises thrill seekers not to overlook the dangers of other common summer adventures.

“Zip-lines, rock climbing, jet skis, and parasailing are just a few of the many recreational options open to adventure seekers in the waning days of summer,” Colella said.

“Unfortunately, there is a tendency for participants to assume these activities are safe simply because they are offered to the public – and that’s dangerous thinking.”

While zip-lining was added to the regulation guidelines of the Michigan Carnival-Amusement Safety Act in 2017, participants must be cautious with any outdoor thrill activity.

That’s because the inherent risk of the activity may be exacerbated by employees who aren’t properly trained in standard safety and operations

“I often deal with gross negligence cases in recreational waivers and have found that it isn’t necessarily the risk of the activity itself that endangers participants, but operator error,” Colella said.

A recreational waiver is a legal protection document to prevent lawsuits and is used by organizations involved in offering activities that carry varying degrees of risk, such as zip-lining, sky diving, canoeing and rafting, rock climbing, and skiing/snowboarding.

“Most participants sign off on the recreational waiver without question because they realize that the activity is risky; yet they also assume that every precaution within reason has been taken to keep participants safe,” Colella said.

Colella, who settled a lawsuit in 2017 with a client who failed to have his rock-climbing harness properly secured by an employee of Lifetime Fitness, says participants need to go beyond consideration of the risky activity itself and pay closer attention to the individuals actually operating the adventure activity. 

“It’s not just the legitimacy of the company or venue offering the service. Legitimate businesses often hire young adults to direct or assist with activities like zip-lines, parasailing and other recreational adventures,” Colella said. “Through the numerous gross negligence cases I’ve handled, there is a common thread of untrained or under-trained employees, frequently college students picking up hours during school breaks, in charge of potentially risky activities.  That’s often where the greatest danger lurks.”

Colella offers the following advice to those engaging in an activity that requires a signed recreational waiver.

“Do not participate in risky adventure activities if you encounter clueless employees, shoddy equipment or poorly maintained grounds,” Colella said. “They can be indicators of additional unnecessary risks that can cause death or permanent harm.”

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